July 22, 2022 – Sydney International Airport
Ambassador Kennedy: Good morning. Thank you all so much for coming out here this morning to welcome me. I am so excited to be here. I am so excited to begin my service as United States Ambassador to Australia. There is so much excitement in D.C. about this relationship and this partnership, not only the bilateral relationship but the regional work together and really our work as global partners.
I was in D.C. for the last month or so and starting at the top President Biden had a great meeting with Prime Minister Albanese in Tokyo; everybody is so excited about working together in the QUAD and in the Pacific, so there’s a big agenda, and I can’t wait to get started. Personally, this means a great deal to me. My husband is here with me. We first came to Australia on our honeymoon 36 years ago, almost exactly because yesterday was two days ago was our anniversary. And then we were fortunate to come back with our children when we were in Japan.
We met so many wonderful people. I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to get a chance to serve here until we’re here and get to know a few more people. I don’t know if I just got off the plane so I’m not really all that well informed about what’s going on here right now. Today, so for today, but I’m happy to answer questions more generally.
Reporter: Ambassador Kennedy A big focus for Australia in the U.S. over recent years has been the rise of an increasingly assertive China. How big a focus will that be for you in your role here?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I think the U.S. Australia partnership is really my focus and the work that we do together in the region, security, economic engagement, climate change, health, security, all those things. So, I think that China certainly has a big presence here in the region, but I think our partnership does as well.
Reporter: Ambassador are you concerned about Australian..
Reporter: It’s been 549 days…..
Ambassador Kennedy: Did you just talk over a woman?
Reporter, I did…. (room laughs).
Reporter: Are you concerned about Australia’s relationship with the Pacific currently?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, like I said, I haven’t even presented my credentials. I know there’s a lot of work to do in the Pacific. I am excited the Peace Corps is coming back into the Pacific Islands after an absence of many years in terms of the U.S. engagement. So, these are all things that I want to talk to the government here about and see what we can do about it.
Reporter: Ambassador it’s been 549 days since the last time there was an American Ambassador to Australia. At that time, some people wondered whether the relationship had been downgraded, maybe it didn’t matter to the U.S. What do you say to people who have had that concern?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I’d say it’s not true. I wish you could have been with me in DC. The sense of excitement about all the possibilities for bilateral cooperation is really powerful. I think everybody feels that it’s unfortunate that it’s taken so long to confirm ambassadors but all my predecessors I’ve consulted with including Ambassador Culvahouse who have all given me great advice, and, you know, between COVID and all of that, I think it’s been a lot of that, but we’ve also seen that people can work remotely and I think that there’s been a lot of work ongoing, even though there hasn’t been an ambassador. So now we’ll see if having an ambassador makes a difference. I hope that I can tell you that it does.
Embassy Press Spokesperson: I think we have time for one or two more questions. Why don’t we go to Adriane Reardon, ABC?
Reporter: Hi, yes. Why do you think the U.S’ focus drifted from the Pacific in recent decades? Was that a mistake?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I’m focused on what’s going on now and in the future. So, it’s certainly a big focus now, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to visit. Certainly, for me personally, it has great significance, since my father served in the Pacific and was rescued by two Solomon Islanders and an Australian coast watcher, and this is a critical area in the region, and I think the U.S. needs to do more. We’re putting our embassies back in and the Peace Corps coming, and USAID is coming back and we’re coming back. We haven’t been there for a while, but I think that, that that is all tremendously positive, and I think the U.S. and Australia working together will make a big impact.
Reporter: Sort of two really. Have you heard that your boss, the President, Biden has got COVID?
Ambassador Kennedy: Yes.
Reporter: And do you know how he’s going?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I haven’t spoken to him as I was just on the plane, but I wish him the best. He’s strong and healthy and, obviously I hear he has very mild symptoms so hopefully he will be feeling better soon.
Reporter: And obviously, the fanfare. Normally, we have a diplomatic posting, it just happens. No one knows about it but obviously because of your name, do accept that that just goes with the territory when you enter a new phase of your life here?
Ambassador Kennedy: You mean you didn’t all come out here for the last person?
Reporter: No, we didn’t.
Ambassador Kennedy: (Laughs) Well thank you for coming today. My family legacy is something I’m really proud of, and I try to live up to and and I think the fact that it means something to people around the world makes me really proud and want to be worthy of it and do what I can to continue the values that my father would like.
Reporter: Well good luck with it.
Reporter: Can I ask one question, you mentioned in your video about sports and snacks..
Ambassador Kennedy: Yes.
Reporter: You used those two phrases. You couldn’t wait to get to Australia to get sports and snacks. What snacks? What sports?
Ambassador Kennedy: Well, I know there’s a lot of sports in that there’s a lot of trick questions involved in sports, so I am not answering any sports questions…
Ambassador Kennedy: Again, that’s not a U.S. sport, so I got a lot to learn and that was one of the areas I’ll be focusing on.